Organizers behind an effort to erect a permanent sports history exhibit at are trying to drum up public support for the pricey proposition.
Two years ago, the set up an exhibit at the Smith-Cadbury Mansion covering an extensive history of sports accomplishments by Moorestonians—from the 1920s to the present—titled “Sports Legends of Moorestown.”
According to its curator, trustee Lenny Wagner, the exhibit was easily the most popular the Historical Society has ever put on display.
“It’s not even close,” he said. “Close to a thousand people came through it.”
Unfortunately, the exhibit—populated primarily by borrowed items—was only temporary, and when it came down in June 2010, all the items were sent back to their owners or packed away in boxes, presumably never to be seen again by the general public.
That didn’t sit well with Neil Rosa, athletic director for the Moorestown School District, who called it “a shame” that so many historically rich pieces of memorabilia would be tucked away where the public couldn’t see them.
So Rosa approached Wagner with an idea: Put the items on permanent display in the lobby of the Moorestown Athletic Center (MAC) at the high school.
“I was thrilled with (the idea),” said Wagner. “There’s just sort of a natural interest in sports in Moorestown … Sports is a big part of the town’s history.”
They approached interior designer Wendy Holden, owner of , to help with the project based on her and her company’s experience designing similar displays. Despite having not seen the original exhibit, Holden was a fan from the get-go.
“It’s a great project,” she said. “I just think it’s exciting there’s something that could be tied in with the Historical Society.”
With direction from Rosa and Wagner, Holden designed the project in three stages. Stage one would collect all the items from the original Historical Society exhibit into one display along one wall of the MAC. Stage two would entail an “island case”—essentially a tower encased in glass—in the middle of the MAC lobby, containing more memorabilia.
Among the items encased in the stage one display would be a Walter French baseball card, which was donated to the Historical Society and became the catalyst for the original “Sports Legends of Moorestown” exhibit. French, a native Moorestonian, played for the Philadelphia Athletics in the ‘20s, as well as the NFL’s Pottsville Maroons, and is one of only two men to win both a World Series and an NFL Championship, according to Wagner.
Other Moorestown sports legends who would be showcased include All-American lacrosse and field hockey player Mary McCarthy Stefano; pro football player Dave Robinson, who played in Super Bowl I; and Al LeConey, gold medalist in the 4x100 relay at the 1924 Olympics.
“Some of these stories are very compelling,” said Wagner, who noted 60 different Moorestown sports legends were profiled in the original exhibit.
The final stage of the project would be a much larger display stretching down the hall leading back to the main high school building, a space that would be used for future Moorestown sports achievers.
“There’s always going to be people who are breaking records,” said Holden. “We wanted to show, it didn’t have to end there.”
Rosa has already gotten permission from the to press forward with the project—provided it’s completely privately funded.
The project—with a total price tag of roughly $250,000 ($95,000 for stage one, $35,000 for stage two, and more than $100,000 for stage three)—isn’t cheap. But that’s because the materials needed to keep such sensitive items safe come at a price, Holden said.
They’ll be asking people to entrust the school, and the Historical Society, with their treasured sports mementos, Rosa said. “It needs to be secure.”
While private donations are certainly welcome, Rosa said they’re focusing their efforts on attracting corporate sponsors. And though there’s no timeline on the project, he said they’re “trying to do it as expeditiously as possible.”
“Once this is built, this can be used as a showcase for the community,” he said. “This particular thing really resonates to the culture (of the town). It’s town pride.”
“As a community, we are who we were,” said Wagner. “This is a heritage (the students) are going to carry on. It’s important to know these stories, so you know where you came from as a community.”
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